Monday, March 24, 2014

Oops! I did it again and again and again and again again..........................

Pardon the use of a song title that while many have heard, and is popular among many, doesn't portray a message we would want to incorporate into our lives. But that's the point.
In 1 Kings this is a recurring theme (also in 2 Kings, but that's next week), and this theme sets the stage for the destruction of the Israelite nation. 1 Kings is a tough read, but it bears our study because while this "did again theme" is applied to a nation, it applies on an individual level for us all.
                             "And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD"
7 times in judges we come across this phrase. The pattern continues through 1 and 2 Samuel although we don't see the phrase worded exactly as it is above, then 1 and 2 Kings. 29 times that phrase is quoted in these two books alone. See the pattern.
2 short points. do evil in the sight of the Lord, means much more than just doing bad things. We all mess up, that's why the Bible focuses so intently on repentance-turning from what we want to what God wants. This phrase means openly and flagrantly disregarding what God say to or not do, easy enough right? But the consequences go beyond just what happens to us! An entire nation stumbled and fell. God's plan is that all would know the grace filled gift of His Son, but when we place our purpose and plans above His, the door of salvation is slammed in the face of those needing a Savior. God takes a dim view of sin, but His anger can be kindled when we disregard the eternal destiny of others. It's in the Bible, albeit OT, but it's there. And God is still the same God He was in the OT, He doesn't change.
2. To do evil in the sight of the Lord is often called sin, but it should be called SIN. All caps, no lower case letters to take away the depth of disobedience. To do evil is a premeditated act. Meaning there was a plan to do wrong and it was carried out.
 We all have and still  "sin and fall short of the glory of God". But we aren't left in this sinful state. God has provided through His Son Jesus Christ the power and ability to do things differently. Yes we mess up, but from a heart changed by God come plans for good which promote Kingdom living and purpose.
So we go from Oops I did it again and again and again and again, to, Oops I messed up. Now God search my heart and show me any evil that is there and help me glorify you and love others. This is the good news, the gospel! We are saved from not only the hell that contains the devil and his entourage, but the hell we create for ourselves here on earth.
These Kings obviously didn't take seriously the promise made to their ancestor Abraham way back in Genesis and look what happened. Will we?

Monday, March 17, 2014

God Keeps His Promises.

Does God really keep His promises?
Reading through the Old Testament is an often exhausting, confusing as well as sometimes depressing exercise. While it's true that at certain points in Old Testament scripture we can pull out those verses that seem positive and exhortative, for the most part, battles abound, wars are being fought, people are dying and God seems to be mad all the time. Many people have come to view the God of the Old Testament as being completely different than the God of the New Testament.  It's an understandable although incorrect assertion.
During all of these wars, God promises victory, which He gives.
During the times of national suffering God promises deliverance, which He delivers.
To barren women he promises children, which He gives.
To Kings He promises prosperity and safety which He again gives.
He promises land, health, wealth, kids, victory, wisdom, knowledge, and the list goes on and on. And He delivers every time.
But He also makes a promise which we overlook. He promises consequences for sin.The result? Separation from Him, poverty, sickness, death. We like the promises which further our well being, but we rebel against the promises which protects His holiness.
 Before the story of humanity has time to completely unfold, God makes the biggest promise of all.

  And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.   And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.  And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. Genesis 17:6-8

Many believe that God is only referring to the nation of Israel, but the Apostle Paul sets things straight.

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ. Galatians 3:16

God promised hope, peace, and a right relationship with Him. In short God promised a Savior, Jesus Christ. And He didn't just deliver on the promise, He actually hand delivered Jesus to His captors and to the cross. Beaten, robbed of His dignity, spit upon, laughed at, and brutally crucified, God delivered Himself, God the Son, so we could love Him rightly in this life and reign with Him in the next.
I think God keeps His promises, do you?

Monday, March 10, 2014

The pressure is on!

After having the luxury of studying the book of 1 Samuel for two entire weeks (A snow storm canceled our last weekends Sunday service), the life of Israel's first King, Saul, really got my attention! Many believers spend their time in the New Testament reading about Jesus' ministry, His death and resurrection, and then move on to what Paul and other writers had to say about our new life in Christ, but the Old Testament is every bit as important. Why? It shows us the need for a Savior, even when we we've already been saved!
King Saul, chosen by God accepted by men was Israel's first King. He was an impressive looking man, head and shoulders above the entire nation. He wasn't prideful, couldn't boast about battles won or a great heritage (the tribe of benjamin was the smallest tribe). But soon after his appointment as king, the power went to his head. He made some really bad decisions.
At Gigal ( 2 Samuel 13) he offered a sacrifice that wasn't his to make, and after a great victory (chapter 15) he kept some spoils of victory that weren't his to keep. His life appears much like ours.True, we may not be kings of a kingdom and our jobs may not hold the importance of a monarchy, but the pressure to succeed pushes us to do and say things we shouldn't. In our desire to be someone in the eyes of people, we forget that in the eyes of God, in Christ, we are all we will ever be. No more and definitely no less!
God gave us Christ, to take the pressure from us, not place more upon our shoulders.
Matthew 11
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
         This is something I am in constant need of reminding. As a Pastor, I want the church to be a certain way, I want people to respond in a certain manner. As a father and grandfather I want my children and grandchildren to grow up to be responsible and Godly people, but understanding that I can't make anyone do anything or that I am not responsible for the complete well-being of others, takes the pressure off of me and places those responsibilities in the lap of My Lord. True I have duties and responsibilities (raising my children in a Godly home as well as leading and loving those I serve in church), but the outcome is out of my control.
          None of this means that we should ever settle for second best, or become complacent in our roles (whatever those may be). We should  "do everything as unto the Lord".  But this also means that we don't don't take on the role of messiah.  As long as we are walking the talk, we are doing exactly what God is expecting.
            The pressure we place on ourselves is usually from an expectation of wanting to see certain results. As long as we can say to God, "Lord I did it your way" then the pressure is off. Our concern won't be what people think of us or the results, but what God thinks of us. And if we have done all we can do in faith (remember faith in Christ is the only thing that pleases God), then while we may still be concerned for others, the outcome is in God's hands where it belongs. Take a couple of hours and read 2 Samuel. See how a life full of promise, can go downhill quickly when the pressure to please people or ourselves becomes to great.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


        This past weekend we braced for a huge snowstorm that never came. Our area was forecasted to receive 8 inches of snow, instead we received about 3/4 of an inch of sleet. Hundreds of churches cancelled their services, businesses braced for the worst and it never came. Oh we had to deal with slippery roads due to the ice, but the deep snow forecast turned out to be a non-event. But in fairness, predicting the weather is a tough job especially in St.Louis. The whole weekend make me think about how some skeptics view this whole "God Thing".
        Jesus promises to be with us in this world and lead us by the hand to the next. The next world, Heaven. The life we lead now shows the world we believe Jesus' "forecast". When the weather men tell us that the weather is going to turn bad, we make preparations. Store shelves are emptied, gas tanks are filled. Are we preparing for His return in the same way? Sharing His love and mercy. Bringing hope to the hopeless? I truly believe that many believers are so burdened by the things happening  in this world, they lose focus of the next.
        We live in a world where we are conditioned to be skeptics. Love never fails? Divorce is rampant. God hears our prayers? Evil things happen everyday.Broken promises everywhere. This list could go on and on. Skeptics look at Christians much the same way as we look at the weather  people when they "miss it" with a forecast. The weather people have their training, computers, and radar to predict the weather and they still get it wrong, alot! But Christians have the Bible, The Holy Spirit, as well as other believers to counsel us, and we still get it wrong, alot! That's not God's fault, it's ours. Our lack of faith and stumbles don't make God any less real, but those infractions do make others (who may be on the fence) question God's very existence.
So what's the answer? Stand behind God's forecast!

Admit when we are wrong. Remember God's reputation is at stake.
Love each other, even when it's not convenient.
Live like kids of the King, even when the world says you're poor.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6

This is Jesus' forecast, period!

Monday, February 24, 2014


I have to admit, that of all the books of the Bible, I have spent the least amount of time in Ruth. As a guy, I go for the books with all the battles and those which talk less about about love affairs! But in 4 short chapters the book of Ruth brings to light some principles which every believer should not only know, but also implement.
Ruth is a Moabite, a non-jewish woman (this is the only book of the Bible which highlights the life of a non-jew!) following her mother-in-law (Naomi) back to jewish lands. Naomi is bitter, after all, she has lost her husband and both of her sons. But Ruth (her name means friendship), takes care of Naomi and through her efforts provides for the well being of Naomi. Boaz (not the city's most eligible bachelor) sees Ruth and the care she gives Naomi and is moved to help Ruth. In the process he finds that he is related to Naomi. He goes before the city elders declares his intention of redeeming Naomi and Ruth, marries Ruth and they have a soon who would be the grandfather of King David.
*Ruth's name means friend-we should all have a Ruth in our lives as well as be a Ruth to someone else. Being a true friend means we do for someone what they cannot do for themselves. This isn't charity or a social system of care as we know it, it is instead a way to bring hope to those short of hope.
*Ruth and Naomi were sustained by Boaz's adherence to jewish traditional understanding of the OT command concerning the act of gleaning. In short leaving something behind for others to benefit from. Boaz's fields weren't picked clean, but instead some grain was left behind. We have this same opportunity everyday. Leave a bigger tip, pay for a stranger's meal, and possibly most important, leave a Godly legacy our kids and their kids will follow.
* Kinsman Redeemer-Jesus bought us back from slavery. We didn't deserve His grace. But that doesn't mean we should hang our heads in shame, we have a new identity and new family name. We were sinners separated from God by our sinful nature, but now we are Kids of the King, with all the benefits and privileges that accompany this new identity!

God's only requirement? Live like a child of the King!

Ruth is a prophet book of sorts. Written long before Jesus Christ came to redeem humanity, it shows God's plan of redemption, His willingness to publicly address the issue on the cross (as Boaz did at the city gates) and His desire to share the Gospel with everyone.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I did it my way!

 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: Judges 2:11

Unfortunately we read this phrase 6 more times in the book of Judges. But in spite of what the Israelites did, God was faithful to His promise to care for them. 12 different judges were appointed by God to deliver them from countries that were oppressing and occupying their cities. But at the end of the book we read these words:

 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

God wanted the best for this nation (Israel) He had built, but they continuously settled for second best. The pattern of sin,repentance,deliverance and rest was a pattern repeated (at least) 12 times in the book of Judges. No matter how many times God saved them, these people continued to do things their way, rather than following God. How many times has that pattern repeated itself in our lives? We may not be conquered by foreign countries, but doing things our way opens up the possibility of being distracted from God's purpose and thereby limiting God's blessings. Here are three principles we can take away from this book (and there are many more!) which can help us as we live in this world, while preparing to meet our Savior in the next.
1. We don't deserve anything.
Hard words I know. Especially when we live in a time and place where hard work does produce results and can help us to achieve our dreams. But in the Kingdom of God, these rules don't apply. We are saved by His grace and His grace alone.
2. Resting is good but should only be a temporary posture for believers. When the Israelites "did evil in the sight of the Lord" they had become complacent. Evil fell on the nation during these times of rest. God invites us to a mission.
3. God is faithful. No matter how bad we mess up God is always there and waiting for our repentance. Forgiveness was applied on our behalf at Calvary, repentance is our way of agreeing with the plans of God and acting accordingly.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Positional Thinking

From different areas of our life we are bombarded by messages which can at times alter our perception of our true identity. In the book of Joshua we find a nation hand picked by God struggling with issues that affect us all. Can God be trusted? Am I really accepted by Him? Does He really mean all those things He promises in the Bible? Are those promises just for the people in the Bible or are they for me as well?
The nation of Israel was given a promise and then God told them exactly what it would take to secure that promise.

6 "Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.
7 "Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

Joshua 1
Then Paul reinforces this same promise in his letter to the people at Rome.
14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"
16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. Romans 8

In short don't let the circumstances dictate your actions from those bad messages we receive from all around us. 
Positional thinking isn't positive thinking (although this process does have some merit). When we realize who God says we are, then act accordingly, we are embracing His promise and His blessings already prepared. We are not making anything happen, it has already happened in Jesus Christ. We merely reach out and possess that which God has already granted. Then we begin to live like free people, unafraid of what people may think, unworried about saying the wrong thing because we are pleasing to God because we are in Jesus Christ. And the last time I checked, Jesus Christ was absolutely pleasing to God!
It is only when we "turn from it to the right or to the left," which means do things our way that we run aground. I call this a spiritual shipwreck. It's like taking a perfectly good boat and rather than stay in a clearly marked channel where it's safe, we decide to short cut in shallow water.
The law to which many people naturally default (because that's all we usually hear and the law is written on our hearts) can't be our guide either. Yes these were holy precepts given by God to guide His people, but these laws pointed to a coming savior. 

23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3
So the need for the law still applies for His people in order to remind us to treat one another with love, but also for those who need to know Jesus Christ. Don't let the law take the place of His Spirit.
Positional thinking merely embraces a truth already stated by God and a promise already given by God. The only question is: Do we believe? Is Jesus enough? What part of me rebels in such a way as to take control and "turn to the left or right"? The answer isn't trying harder. It is asking God to show you how to embrace His promises. 
"God show me my place in your Kingdom".